3D Illustration of camera drone flying over dry desert.

Can a Drone Fly in the Desert?

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Since flying drones is for fun, at least, for most people, most want to fly them anywhere their feet land. Whether it’s in the desert, camping site, or national park, among others, drone users get tempted to fly them anywhere.

A huge concern for most drone users, though, is, can a drone fly in the desert? 

Drones can fly in deserts, since the mechanisms and physics behind drone making allows them to. However, in most deserts and wilderness areas, especially those that fall under the National Wilderness Preservation Areas, drone flight is banned. But you may find some unregulated areas to fly in where a few considerations, for example, the weather, may however be a vital consideration before flying it there.

Below, I’ll discuss at length why it’s permissible to fly drones in the desert plus, what you need to do before flying yours there. 

Can a Drone Fly in the Desert?

Yes. Drones can fly in the desert. However, harsh weather conditions impact the performance of common drones to fewer hours (5.7 hours daily) and reduce the flying time.

Nonetheless, advanced drones like DJI M600 Pro can fly through the desert and capture high-quality images and videos of desert landscapes.

Before taking off in the desert, you need to be aware of temporary flight restrictions (TFRs). These will vary depending on the location selected. However, these TFRs are not always up when flying long distances across distant locations.

Are Drones Affected by Weather?

Yes. Weather conditions like humidity, fog, snow, extreme temperatures, and rain can impact common drones’ flight and performance.

Thus, you should set up a plan that guides your drone’s activities according to weather conditions. Additionally, you may need to confirm the provided drone weather tolerances.

What About Wind Speed?

The wind speed can diminish the flight time and affect the picture quality of drone videos. So, you must not fly your drone on high-wind days.

Furthermore, if you want your drone to fly longer, you should install a powerful radio controller.

Nevertheless, you can also use video transmission while flying your drone, as in that case, you are not significantly impacted by wind.

The weather in the deserts can be very unpredictable. Therefore, it is best to decide a proper time and place for flying your drone in the desert before taking off.

Turbulence and strong wind (22mph and above) can also influence your flying experience in the desert. Therefore, you need to be alert for obstacles like trees and mountains, which might affect your drone’s stability.

Additionally, other weather conditions in the desert, like extremely high or low temperatures, can impact the performance of your drone. So, always check the maximum wind speed resistance before launching.

Strong winds can also influence your flying experience in desert

The Altitude:

The altitude of your flying drone operations can also affect the drone flight performance. The length of your drone is needed to fly and reach desired locations.

Hence, the higher you fly in the desert (e.g., 500-5000 feet), the better it will be for your video footage and pictures. 

Drone pilots should not fly their drones higher than this airspace. Don’t set the altitude of your drone to less than 500 feet in the desert for a smoother and safer flying experience.

Thus, UAS can be used in desserts to take stunning aerial images and videos. It can also be used for surveillance purposes, monitoring of border crossing or regulation patrol, etc.

Can you Land a Drone on Sand?

Avoid launching or landing your UAS from the sand at all costs. Those tiny grains of sand can cause irreparable damage to the motors and other internal components.

Therefore, a landing pad is essential when launching from a sandy area without a buddy to hold the drone. Additionally, you need to ensure that your drone’s landing gear is down and locked when it comes in contact with the ground.

Additionally, most terrain, even sandy ground, can be slippery and hard to hold with the arms. If the pilot loses control of their drone, it could fall into a deep pile of sand or slip into loose soil and get stuck under your feet!

Drone on a landing pad on desert
Landing Pad is important in desert conditions

5 Important Tips on Landing a Drone on Sand:

If you still want to land on sand, then keep in mind the following five tips:

  • Land your drone with gentle touch only. The sand surface is too smooth and versatile to hold in your hands.
  • The drone’s landing forces depend on weight, wind speed, and height. Thus, the use of drones in deserts calls for extreme caution.
  • Withholding your drone in hand, it is good to launch the other arm to let it go and a touchdown on its own as soon as you get close enough to landing.
  • The sensors, especially a tiny UAS, may encounter difficulties functioning correctly if it is just a few feet from the ground.
  • Experiment and trial in landings on sand work as you gain experience with your drones’ flying abilities.

But how do you fly a drone in the desert? Here take a look!

How can you Fly a Drone in the Desert?

Below are four tips to help you fly your UAS in the desert.

Know Where to Fly:

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) are classified as both “motorized equipment” and “mechanical transport.”

They cannot operate from congressionally designated wilderness areas (CWDs) either during takeoff or landing or while in flight. Without the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization, an uncrewed aircraft must not take off or land in a CWD.

UAS cannot fly in areas with TFRs, such as wildfires, because of the dangers. So, use the FAA’s website to learn about the current TFRs and general drone laws.

Drone regulations in desert states differ by state. For instance, in some parts of the world like Arizona, you can be permitted to fly for recreational and commercial purposes, unlike in the Dubai desert, where drone flying is banned in residential areas and state parks. 

To fly legally in an unoccupied room, you must announce your presence and use a drone minutes before descending at least 100 meters above the ground.

Follow the FAA Guidelines:

Fly your UAS by all FAA regulations and recommendations. All airspace is under the control of the FAA.

Additionally, flying in the desert is also dangerous because of the sand. So be safe and do not pay attention to any drone laws or regulations as they may not apply when flying in the desert. 

However, do not fly any aircraft with more than 55 pounds (payload and fuel source included).

In addition, be careful to avoid collisions with other aircraft or devices, even if they are not on board.

These guidelines apply equally to general aviation and UAS operations in the United States, including airspace controlled by national government agencies.

Protect Wildlife & the Environment:

Many individuals go to wilderness and primitive areas because of the peace they provide, so do not fly over them.

The tension caused by flying over or near wildlife is hazardous and can result in severe injury or death.

An exception is made for approved research or management projects that do not include disturbing animals while breeding, nesting, or otherwise performing essential life-history functions.

Thus, flying a drone in desert areas without limitation or attention to wildlife is banned—the same for a place that may have critical archaeological sites and historical locations.

In addition, videography or photography of animals or particular areas is banned.

Observe state wildlife and animal agency restrictions regarding the use of UAS in the search for or detection of wildlife and desert animals.

Nonetheless, not all areas will be off-limits, and regulations vary significantly among the states. Therefore, make sure you know the laws that apply to your state before flying any drone. 

Finally, allow at least 100 meters (328 feet) between the UAS and the wildlife. Avoid flying the UAS too close to animals or birds. After all, the desert is not an area where you can afford to make such a mistake.

A group of elephants walking together in the jungle.
Be careful of flying drones in or around wildlife national parks (IG-Remoteflyer20)

Fly Safely, Stay in Control:

a) Keep your Drone within your Line of Vision:

At all times, keep your unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) within your line of vision. A simple mistake can be fatal in the desert, so always pay attention to where your drone is flying. If you lose sight of it for even a split second, your drone could eventually hit an animal or person.

So, while in the desert, always stay within your UAS’s altitude control modes and keep it level as much of the time as possible. This way, you can avoid mistakes that could lead to crashes with animals and other terrain features.

Use caution when flying your UAS in crowded locations, such as campgrounds, trailheads, and visitor centers where noise is an issue.

Avoid flying above and within 100 feet of people at any time, especially in residential areas.

b) Learn how to Safely Fly your Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle (UAS) by Taking Classes :

The training to pilot your drone in the desert is necessary, but it is a lot easier to learn when you have the course material and activity tools. 

When learning to fly in an area like this one, things constantly change and move faster than humans can see or react to. You, therefore, need information that helps guide, control, and protect UAVs from harm on land and air.

c) Keep a Safe Distance from Human-crewed Aircraft and Avoid Interfering with their Operations:

Always fly over open desert areas only. Do not stray too far from the highway or even a well-traveled road to stay within your system’s altitude and speed limitation rates.

They will help you keep drones safe while allowing them to perform their best performance level possible.

d) Use a Remote-Controlled Aircraft at least Five Miles Away from an Airport or Airstrip in the Wilderness:

Flying in the desert can get mighty hot in a hurry. It’s vital to keep safe by staying at least five miles away from an airport or airstrip and out of sight of human-crewed aircraft.

Remember that land-based airports have power lines, and you cannot go over those levels without getting in trouble.

Drone operators should release a drone within a designated airspace, giving the public some time to see who or what is flying.

Flight patterns should also be distributed. So, before launching, start with an easy trick (like doing circles or looping) so that people get used to your UAV’s flight pattern before it starts behaving erratically and seemingly going out of control. Finally, ensure you follow all privacy laws.

FAQs

What’s the Maximum Temperature to Operate a Drone In?

A typical drone can take up to 104 °F. However, high temperatures above 110 °F are generally discouraged by drone manufacturers.

The battery if exposed to extreme temperatures for an extended period, it will likely lose capacity. You also run the danger of melting the wires and plastic inside the device.

Why are Drones Banned in the UAE?

Houthi terrorists in Yemen attempted a series of attacks against the United Arab Emirates capital in January 2022, which prompted the introduction of the embargo.

Anyone caught with a drone in flight under the prohibition will face six months to five years. Furthermore, the country’s Federal Aviation Authority has the power to seize any privately owned drone (even if it is registered).

Can You Fly Drones in Humidity?

Your drone may have problems due to the high moisture level in the air. Your drone’s electrical components may malfunction if exposed to excessive dampness for an extended period.

Drone flights should be postponed if the humidity levels are too high. Additionally, severe weather conditions may pose a risk to the flying objects, particularly when it comes to wind patterns.

Which Drones can Fly in the Desert?

DJI M600 Pro, DJI Mavic Pro, DJI Spark Jet, DJI Air & Mini drones are among the drones that can fly in the desert. These drones are also equipped with a thermal model wherein they can maintain flight in extreme temperatures.

Bottom Line:

While drones offer an exciting new way to get a bird’s-eye view of the world, they can also be quite dangerous if misused. If you are interested in flying in the desert, it is considered an acceptable practice in regions that allow small quadcopter flights.

Before flying in the desert, always become familiar with the rules and policies that govern flights in a particular area. Moreover, it may be necessary to check the limitations of the drone before trying out your flying skills indoors. You might also want to invest in a spare battery.

HAPPY FLYING!

In the end here is a DJI Mavic 2 flying in the desert.

Summary
Article Name
Can You Fly a Drone in the Desert?
Description
Here I’ll discuss at length why it’s permissible to fly drones in the desert plus, what you need to do before flying yours there. 
Author
Publisher Name
Remoteflyer Private Limited
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3 thoughts on “Can a Drone Fly in the Desert?”

  1. You say to follow FAA regulations while flying in the US, yet advise “Don’t set the altitude of your drone to less than 400 feet …” or even 5000 feet?

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